HD vs. SMC Pentax-DA 18-50mm F4-5.6


Like all manufacturers, Pentax likes to use many acronyms and make lens names as long as possible. The following table summarizes many of the terms used in the name and description of the lenses.

SMC "Super Multi-Coating", the name of the famous Pentax coatings used for many decades (with improvements added over time). It was replaced almost completely in 2012 by the new "HD" coating.
HD "High Definition" is the newest generation of multi-coatings by Pentax. It offers better flare resistance.
SP "SP" is not part of the lens's name, but still an important part of its characteristics. Super protect is a type of coating used by Pentax that helps repel dust and grease, making the lens easier to clean. It is often present on WR lenses.
DA / DA L "D" refers to a lens designed for digital cameras, carrying information used for specific program lines, in-camera lens correction and so forth. "DA" signifies that the lens can be used with APS-C cameras, not full frame. A lens labeled "DA L" lacks quick-shift and has a lighter, plastic mount.
F "F" is the maximum aperture of the lens.  The maximum aperture shrinks as you zoom, hence the presence of two numbers.
DC "DC" means that the lens uses a Direct Current autofocus drive. the AF motor is inside the lens, the camera body simply provides power. DC is near-silent and potentially faster.
WR "WR" means the the lens is weather resistant. It cannot be submerged but will resist splashes, rain, snow, dust and other adverse conditions.
RE "RE" means the lens can be retracted when not in use, reducing its length. The 18-50mm debuts this feature.

There are currently 7 versions of the various Pentax digital kit lenses. Below, we highlight the main differences between each:

Name 18-55mm 18-50mm
Year Launched 2006 2008 2009 2009 2013 2015 2015
Focal length 18-55mm 18-50mm
Aperture F3.5-5.6 F4-5.6
6 7 (rounded)
Mount Metal Metal Plastic Metal Plastic Plastic Plastic
Quick-shift Yes Yes No Yes No Yes Yes
Manual Focus Mechanical By Wire*
Weather resistance No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Autofocus Screw DC
Petal Petal N/A Petal N/A N/A Window
Colors Black Black Black, white, custom
Black Black, white, custom Black or white Black

*Renders the lens incompatible with very old bodies such as the *ist D and K110D, since focusing (even manually) is not possible due to the lack of electrical contracts.

Here are the complete specifications of the two lenses under test.

Lens Name

HD Pentax-DA 18-50mm F4-5.6 DC WR RE

SMC Pentax-DA 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 AL WR

Optical Formula 11 elements, 8 groups
(1 aspherical element, 1 ED element)

11 elements, 8 groups
(1 aspherical element, 1 ED element)

Coatings HD, SP


Image Circle APS-C APS-C
Auto-Exposure Support Yes Yes
Construction Plastic (including mount) Plastic (metal mount)
Field of View (diagonal) 76-31.5° 76-29°
Aperture Range F4-5.6 F3.5-5.6
Aperture Blades 7 (rounded) 6
Aperture Ring No No
Max. Magnification 0.23x 0.34x
Focus Type AF, DC, quick-shift (by wire) AF, screw-drive, quick-shift
Manual focus Motorized (by wire) Mechanical
Minimum Focusing Distance 30cm 25cm
Internal Focus  No No
Filter Thread Diameter 58mm 52mm
Cap Yes, push-on (clip-on for DA L) Yes, clip-on
Hood Yes, window (PH-RBJ58) Yes, petal-shaped (PH-RBC)
Case No No
Diameter x Length 71 x 41 mm (2.8 x 1.6 in.) collapsed 68 x 67.5 mm (2.7 x 2.7 in.)
Weight 158 g (5.6 oz.) 230 g (8.1 oz)
Pentax Mount Designation KAF3 KAF
Weather Sealing Yes Yes
Price (US MSRP) $299


Launch Date February 2015


On paper, the two lenses are quite similar, just like we would expect. The shorter focal length of the HD lens translates into a field of view that's smaller by 2.5°. The smaller size represents a 30% weight difference when discounting the hoods, no small feat.

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